Monday Reads

Good Morning!

A friend of mine of 30 years visited me the last few days so we did some things that I rarely do.  This included seeing a Broadway play.  We saw 220px-AnniePlaybillFlashdance the Musical, let me say, in terms of entertainment and music, those are three hours I will never get back, I’m afraid.  I even went to the bar during the intermission and got a very large gin and tonic to see me through the second act.  It really didn’t help as much as I’d hoped.  Some things are better left as chintzy 80s movies.  The supplemental songs were completely forgettable!  I was trying to forget them as they were being sung.  I actually think the last composer worth anything on Broadway was Steven Sondheim and whoever wrote these songs proved me right again.

All the musicals these days have everything but singable songs, I swear! Maybe it’s because I had just seen Bernadette Peters sing Rogers and Hammerstein,  Sondheim, and Irvin Berlin songs that still make my heart strings go zing!!!  But not even all these splashy dance numbers and a few old 80s hits could juice this show.  I’d have gone out to play Angry Birds in the Lobby if I wasn’t sitting in the middle of the row and would’ve rudely awakened my seat prisoners. “Gloria” was included.  It’s not an ice skating scene, however, it’s now a tawdry stripper club dance number.  The song had to be the worst arranged version I’d ever heard of anything  Plus, the  Michael Nouri character got morphed into some goody two shoes white male trust fund baby that rescued all the womminz, the blax, and the real working men.  Not funny. Skip it if it flashdances into a town near you.

So, I’m getting caught up with things that do intrigue me.  That means this post is going to be weird, so sit tight. First up–and you know it was coming–is about the remains of Richard the Lionheart. A group of forensic scientist had at them.

When the English monarch, nicknamed Richard the Lionheart, died in 1199 his heart was embalmed and buried separately from the rest of his body.

Its condition was too poor to reveal the cause of death, but the team was able to rule out a theory that he had been killed by a poisoned arrow. The researchers were also able to find out more about the methods used to preserve his organ. The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The medieval king became known as Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a courageous military leader.
He was central to the Third Crusade, fighting against the Muslim leader Saladin. Although he ruled England, he spent much of his time in France, and was killed there after being hit by a crossbow bolt during a siege on a castle.

Tomb of Richard I Richard I’s remains were divided after he died – his heart was buried in a tomb in Rouen. After his death, his body was divided up – a common practice for aristocracy during the Middle Ages. His entrails were buried in Chalus, which is close to Limoges in central France. The rest of his body was entombed further north, in Fontevraud Abbey, but his heart was embalmed and buried in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Rouen.
The remains of his heart – now a grey-brown powder – were locked away in a small lead box, and discovered in the 19th Century during an excavation. But until now, they had not been studied in detail. To find out more, a team of forensic specialists and historians performed a biological analysis

Economist William K Black asks a great question here: “Sequester Insanity: Why Are We Flushing Economic Recovery Down the Toilet?” Yes, Mourning Joe, another economist disagrees with you and agrees with Krugman, imagine that!!

We have been strangling the economic recovery through economic incompetence — and worse is in store because President Obama continues to embrace (1) the self-inflicted wound of austerity, (2) austerity primarily through cuts in vital social programs that are already under-funded, and (3) attacking the safety net by reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits. The latest insanity is the sequester — the fourth act of austerity in the last 20 months. The August 2011 budget deal caused large cuts to social spending. The January 2013 “fiscal cliff” deal increased taxes on the wealthy and ended the moratorium on collecting the full payroll tax. The sequester will be the fourth assault on our already weak economic recovery. We have a jobs crisis in America — not a government spending crisis and the cumulative effect of these four acts of austerity has caused a certainty of weak growth and a serious risk that we will throw our economy back into recession. The Eurozone’s recession — caused by austerity — greatly adds to the risk to our economy because Europe remains our leading trading partner.

President Obama and a host of administration spokespersons have condemned the sequestration, explaining how it will cause catastrophic damage to hundreds of vital government services. Those of us who teach economics, however, always stress “revealed preferences” — it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what you do that matters. Obama has revealed his preference by refusing to sponsor, or even support, a clean bill that would kill the sequestration threat to our nation. Instead, he has nominated Jacob Lew, the author of the sequestration provision, as his principal economic advisor. Lew is one of the strongest proponents of austerity and what he and Obama call the “Grand Bargain” — which would inflict large cuts in social programs and the safety net and some increases in revenues. Obama has made clear that he hopes this Grand Betrayal (my phrase) will be his legacy. Obama and Lew do not want to remove the sequester because they view it as creating the leverage — over progressives — essential to induce them to vote for the Grand Betrayal.

Yes.  Grand Betrayal.  But, it is what he was planning all along, yes?  It’s not like he hasn’t written or talked about it.   So, we may not lose what we paid for but it certainly is going to be much watered down by the time the Beltway is done.

I’ve been meaning to read this much discussed article by Ruth Rosen.  I’m doing it now and making sure that you didn’t miss it. It was published in Slate last week and is titled: Women’s rights is the longest revolution .  It highlights many things in the women’s movement but focuses on one thing that we should never put at the end of our lists of demands; the end to violence against women.

As an activist and historian, I’m still shocked that women activists (myself included) didn’t add violence against women to those three demands back in 1970. Fear of male violence was such a normal part of our lives that it didn’t occur to us to highlight it — not until feminists began, during the 1970s, to publicize the wife-beating that took place behind closed doors and to reveal how many women were raped by strangers, the men they dated, or even their husbands.

Nor did we see how any laws could end it.  As Rebecca Solnit wrote in a powerful essay recently, one in five women will be raped during her lifetime and gang rape is pandemic around the world.  There are now laws against rape and violence toward women. There is even a U.N. international resolution on the subject.  In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna declared that violence against girls and women violated their human rights.  After much debate, member nations ratified the resolution and dared to begin calling supposedly time-honored “customs” — wife beating, honor killings, dowry deaths, genital mutilation — what they really are: brutal and gruesome crimes. Now, the nations of the world had a new moral compass for judging one another’s cultures. In this instance, the demands made by global feminists trumped cultural relativism, at least when it involved violence against women.

Still, little enough has changed.  Such violence continues to keep women from walking in public spaces. Rape, as feminists have always argued, is a form of social control, meant to make women invisible and shut them in their homes, out of public sight.  That’s why activists created “take back the night” protests in the late 1970s.  They sought to reclaim the right to public space without fear of rape.

The daytime brutal rape and killing of a 23-year-old in India in early January 2013 prompted the first international protest around violence against women. Maybe that will raise the consciousness of some men. But it’s hard to feel optimistic when you realize how many rapes are still regularly being committed globally.

So, any of you that know me closely know that I’ve been screaming about ‘new’ neighbors and wondering what’s up with my neighborhood. Here’s a great article on my New Orleans Bywater Neighborhood:  Gentrification and its Discontents: Notes from New Orleans. The house prices in my neighborhood have skyrocketed.  We are now have multiple eateries where arrugala, kale, and things that totally confused my Omaha friend are on the menus.  The article really explains what’s been going on around me as we’ve been taken over from by Class 4 hipsters.  Here’s the bit about how a neighborhood ‘gentrifies’.  You can read more about my neighborhood in particular at the link.

The frontiers of gentrification are “pioneered” by certain social cohorts who settle sequentially, usually over a period of five to bywater-art-tn1twenty years. The four-phase cycle often begins with—forgive my tongue-in-cheek use of vernacular stereotypes: (1) “gutter punks” (their term), young transients with troubled backgrounds who bitterly reject societal norms and settle, squatter-like, in the roughest neighborhoods bordering bohemian or tourist districts, where they busk or beg in tattered attire.

On their unshod heels come (2) hipsters, who, also fixated upon dissing the mainstream but better educated and obsessively self-aware, see these punk-infused neighborhoods as bastions of coolness.

Their presence generates a certain funky vibe that appeals to the third phase of the gentrification sequence: (3) “bourgeois bohemians,” to use David Brooks’ term. Free-spirited but well-educated and willing to strike a bargain with middle-class normalcy, this group is skillfully employed, buys old houses and lovingly restores them, engages tirelessly in civic affairs, and can reliably be found at the Saturday morning farmers’ market. Usually childless, they often convert doubles to singles, which removes rentable housing stock from the neighborhood even as property values rise and lower-class renters find themselves priced out their own neighborhoods. (Gentrification in New Orleans tends to be more house-based than in northeastern cities, where renovated industrial or commercial buildings dominate the transformation).

After the area attains full-blown “revived” status, the final cohort arrives: (4) bona fide gentry, including lawyers, doctors, moneyed retirees, and alpha-professionals from places like Manhattan or San Francisco. Real estate agents and developers are involved at every phase transition, sometimes leading, sometimes following, always profiting.

Native tenants fare the worst in the process, often finding themselves unable to afford the rising rent and facing eviction. Those who own, however, might experience a windfall, their abodes now worth ten to fifty times more than their grandparents paid. Of the four-phase process, a neighborhood like St. Roch is currently between phases 1 and 2; the Irish Channel is 3-to-4 in the blocks closer to Magazine and 2-to-3 closer to Tchoupitoulas; Bywater is swiftly moving from 2 to 3 to 4; Marigny is nearing 4; and the French Quarter is post-4.

I just refer to them as the barbarian hordes of yupsters, but I guess that’s not the academic term for it.  On a bright note, I could never afford my house now and can sell it for a huge amount of money.  Actually, I’m not so sure that’s a bright note because now my new neighbors do not like the charm of my slightly run down green house or the fact I prefer low up keep weeds to grass in the alley.  Oh, well … I still miss the old coterie of merchant seamen that were drag queens when they got back home, hippies thrown out of the quarter, old people left over from the old days, and section 8 rental denizens.  After all, what’s a few seedy people among friends if they’ve got character and a good story to tell over a beer?

So, there’s a little this and that to get you started on a Monday Morning.  I didn’t want to depress you with the Sunday Presskateers so, you will just have to hit the Charles Pierce link for that.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

49 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Dean Baker explains why the Pew report that claims old people are rich is nonsense.

    A couple of years ago, Pew did an analysis that gave breakdowns of wealth by age group. It found that the median household over the age of 65 had $170,500 in net worth….

    The bulk of people who are now turning age 65 do not have a defined benefit pension. (They did in 1984.) This means that the only income they have is their Social Security check, which averages a bit over $1,200 a month. Right off the bat, $100 a month is subtracted to pay for their Medicare Part B premium. This means that our high living seniors have an income of $1,100 a month, plus their $170,500 in net worth.

    Is this rich? My guess is that 90 percent of the reporters who have covered this Pew study have no clue what net worth means. The $170,000 figure includes every asset that seniors own. That means everything in retirement accounts and other personal savings, the value of their car and the equity in their home. To put this in perspective, the median house price is roughly $180,000. That means that if our typical senior household sold off every other asset they held they would have roughly enough money to pay off their mortgage. Then they would be entirely dependent on their Social Security check to support themselves.

    Do the reporters covering this story really think this is a picture of affluence? Will they be happy if they have a retirement where their entire income is their Social Security check?

    • bostonboomer says:

      Here’s a comment on that thread:

      written by mercurino, March 03, 2013 1:36
      I want to echo JSedyl’s request that Dr. Baker provide a fuller explanation for his oft-repeated mortgage payoff claim. This is probably due to my lack of knowledge, but I’m not sure why Dr. Baker suggests subtracting the median home price from the median net worth of senior households. I would think that the value of seniors’ homes actually represents the vast majority of the $170,000+ median net worth. If the median senior household has no (or low) debt, $1,100/month in SS benefits, and $170,000+ in assets, that actually seems like they’re doing pretty well. Am I looking at this the wrong way?

      $1,100 per month to cover utilities, gas, food, medical expenses–not to mention emergencies is “doing pretty well?” And that’s if these seniors don’t have to pay mortgages or rent. But most baby boomers who are paying mortgages or rent. Our parents home were paid off by retirement, but most people approaching retirement have had to take out second mortgages or are still paying off a 30-year mortgage.

      • HT says:

        Obviously the idiot who made that comment has no idea of the cost of things. Perhaps he still lives in his parent’s house whereby they pay everything and he pays a paltry monthly room and board? And yes most bboomers are paying mortgages because they remortgaged multiple times to pay for their children’s upkeep and education. So much for the knowledge of the next few generations.

    • mjames says:

      And what will Walmart do when we have no money at all to spend? How is the economy supposed to improve when we can’t buy anything? If you want us to buy stuff, oh brilliant ones, you have to make sure we have money. This is ridiculous. I mean, I know we deserve to be hated and starved because we weren’t bequeathed great wealth or didn’t fixate on wealth as our top priority in life, but, come on, they are cutting off their own noses with this BS.

      Cut Social Security and Medicare, privatize schools – and then what? From what will they then extract rents? All those years of unfunded wars and ever-reducing taxes on the wealthy are coming home to roost, but somehow it falls to us to clean up the chicken coop. This is not going to end well.

      • dakinikat says:

        I found out the guy that robbed our $ghetto store and shot the cop had lost his job. He told the clerks he wasn’t looking to hurt them and that he had nothing to live for … now the police are after him big time while a bunch of wall street crooks are still collecting bonuses. I say expect more of this.

      • bostonboomer says:

        M James,

        Their goal is to re-institute indentured servitude. If you’re old or sick and can’t work and don’t have relatives you can just die of starvation and eventually someone will come and throw your dead body into a mass grave.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Sorry to be Debbie Downer. I’m in a bad mood already, because I just listened to about an hour of Morning Joe and the gang whining about “entitlements,” and before that I listened to Cokie Roberts claim that she knows (after two days!) that no one will be hurt by the sequestration cuts.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      I caught part of Mourning Joe, BB……I swear it’s like the MSM has been given a beat-down playbook on SS/Medicare/Medicaid or as they like to call them “The Entitlements”. They’re basically all saying the same things. I suppose we know who wrote the script. Since the top 400 wealthiest American’s possess more combined wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans the focus on the Safety Nets is ABSURD, SHAMEFUL, DISGUSTING!!!! The fuckers will never stop trying to squeeze blood out of the turnips.

      Now the Swiss have voted for step one to help resolve the problem of unbridled GREED.

      Swiss Vote for Tough Limits on Executive Pay

      As for senior wealth, from my experience most seniors so-called “wealth” is their home equity. When you consider that most of us used traditional mortgages to buy our homes it’s really difficult to look at home equity and see it as “wealth” since we invested (via interest) payments 2 to 3x times more in our homes than what we borrowed combined with what we’ve invested in them to keep them from falling down around us. The whole of the home mortgage system is a giant ripoff.

      • dakinikat says:

        My dad is 90 and had a car dealership for 30 years. He has essentially outlived his wealth. He not only paid his social security but paid that of his employees. None of these idiots actually think about any of that either.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      No one on those panels will be directly hurt by these cuts. They are all well paid to sit there and ruminate about the effect it will have on the rest of us since we are expected to just “swallow the medicine” without complaint.

      I have had to take my own self imposed sabbatical from the news over the past few weeks. It is demoralizing to listen to the crapfest about changes in the Catholic Church, the idiots arguing against gun control, the morons slapping more restrictions on women’s healthcare issues, the assholes pontificating over voting rights, the simpletons discussing entitlements, and the never ending speculation over Chris Christie’s nomination in 2016.

      Meanwhile, I wait with baited breath for my property taxes to increase in order to maintain public services that have been put on the chopping block while watching the infrastructure fall apart and congress goes on yet another recess.

      No matter how you slice it, not matter how odious the Tea Party faction may be, they seem to have maintained a strong grip on the trajectory of this country and it is depressing to engage.

      I will share the Debbie Downer title with you as my mood these days is not unique.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Ditto all that, Pat! 🙂

      • HT says:

        What mouse said – ditto. And I’m Canadian, but this sheite is getting me down cause if it continues there it will migrate here. I would like my children to live in a “Just Society” (tm Pierre Trudeau) but the way things are going, there ain’t such a thing anymore.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Triple ditto!

    • ecocatwoman says:

      I heard the Cokie Roberts “report” & was screaming at the radio. After playing an audio clip of Boehner saying “no one knows what effect the sequester will have on the economy”, Cokie comes on & says – Yep, no one really does know. I screamed TALK TO AN ECONOMIST OR 2 instead of idiot politicians!

      • bostonboomer says:

        The way I heard it was that she thought nothing was going to happen and was making fun of the whole thing, but I was sort of half-asleep at the time.

      • Beata says:

        I’ll take a wild guess and say Cokie Belle Roberts has never missed a meal or gone without health insurance. No one she knows will be hurt by the sequester cuts. Ergo, everything is fine. Pour the tea and pass the pretty little finger sandwiches, please.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Nope. Her dad was Senator Hale Boggs.

      • RalphB says:

        Cokie’s brother is Tommy Boggs, of Patton Boggs, most influential lobbyists in DC.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Pierce’s Gobshites post is up!

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Pierce is on fire today. Here’s his take on Obama’s ghastly choice for director OMB: Syvia Burwell of the Walmart Foundation.

    Yeah, I’m completely comfortable that she only worked for the “philanthropic” side of the world’s most conspicuous sweatshop-enabler and government-services sinkhole, and now she’s going to advise the president on exactly how much austerity he can “bring to the table” before Paul Krugman and David Cay Johnston and Robert Reich all show up at the White House with their faces painted and waving hatchets. I’m sure she plays a fine piano there in the parlor. But, for all the talk we hear, over and over again, from the courtier press about the “optics” of various political moves, when is someone going to point out that, in an age of widening income inequality and continuing wage-stagnation, with the game obviously rigged in Washington towards more of the same, the administration’s “optics” on its economic team have been uniformly lousy almost from jump? Bob Rubin on the transition team? Geithner at Treasury? “Looking forward, and not back”? Jack Lew, and now someone hired in from Walmart, an entry that ought to get any resume 86’d by any putatively Democratic administration? It seems, alas, to be a feature, and not a bug.

      • dakinikat says:

        and the Penny Pritzker rumors as Commerce Secretary… it’s like they all come equipped with silver spoons and plantation whips for the slaves.

      • Delphyne says:

        I can’t stop laughing at this from Charlie:

        On the distaff side, Her Royal Equinity stamped her foot — in anger, and not in an attempt to count to five — and got vexed and ratty toward the media. Again.

      • RalphB says:

        That was my favorite line!

    • RalphB says:

      She worked for the Clinton Administration from campaign to end. Then the Gates Foundation at a high level, but she wasn’t chosen for overall command when Patty Stonesifer stepped down in 2008. Instead she went to work for the Wal-Mart Foundation.

      The Wal-Mart Foundation, to be clear, is not the same as the more ideological Walton Family Foundation. On the other hand, as you’d expect from a corporate charity, it’s not unrelated to Wal-Mart’s larger public relations efforts.

      Obviously a terrible candidate for OMB. Were no hemp entrepreneurs available?

    • bostonboomer says:

      Well, it’s about time!

      • bostonboomer says:

        Studies of the area where a sinkhole formed last summer in Assumption Parish indicate scientists suspected as early as 1991 that the Napoleonville Dome was not shaped as state regulators believed when they permitted industry to create caverns in the massive underground formation.

        The shape of a salt dome is important because it dictates where to safely locate caverns created by pumping water underground to dissolve the salt, leaving empty space.


    • RalphB says:

      That sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Those early seismic surveys were nowhere near the quality available later and the analysis was pretty iffy.

  5. dakinikat says:

    This is about the student who is a one man show trying to get Jindal’s “creationism in science” LSEA law thrown out.

    Bill Moyers ‏@BillMoyers

    Teen @ZackKopplin exposes “back door to sneak #creationism into public school science classes” #Moyers

    • RalphB says:

      Since we see that all the time, with both health care and now gun laws, it’s nice that a study makes it a printable effect.

  6. RalphB says:

    Jeff Sessions Isn’t a Wonk McCarthyite, or a Wonk Anything

    Senator Sessions’s staff on the Budget Committee has contacted both me and my editor objecting to the item in the most strenuous terms. I have further explored the matter at length and determined that, in my haste, I treated Senator Sessions’s claims far too generously. Senator Sessions’s combination of ignorance and gross lack of intellectual standards turns out to be even more horrifying than I managed to initially communicate. Calling Sessions a “wonk McCarthyite” implies a level of policy understanding on his part that is wholly unsupported by the facts.

    Jon Chait sent Sen Jeff Sessions into a snit. This is delicious.

    • dakinikat says:

      He wrote this wonderful bit too:

      The Republican Party’s public stance on the budget wars is that President Obama is to blame for refusing to support cuts to retirement programs. Now, it’s sort of a tricky stance to maintain because Obama has publicly declared his willingness to cut spending on retirement programs and even outlined his position. The interesting split within the Republican Party is between those Republicans who understand this fact but choose not to acknowledge it, those who don’t understand it, and those who don’t really care.

      • RalphB says:

        I just reposted this below. I should refresh before commenting 🙂

        Chait has done very good work lately, for the most part.

    • prolixous says:

      The only time Jeff Sessions could ever be called in for “wonk analysis” would be for script accuracy and continuity for “D’Jango.”

  7. NW Luna says:

    Obama said Burwell not only knows how “to make the numbers add up” but to ignite middle class economic growth. He said Burwell and her team would face particular challenges as the so-called sequester cuts take hold, but said he was confident they would “do everything in their power to blunt the impact of these cuts on businesses and middle class families.” [emphasis added]

    Note he puts “businesses” first, and “middle class families” last.

  8. RalphB says:

    Jon Chait has a good post on bedget dealing. At this point, I think we understand this but it deserves passing around.

    The GOP Budget Divide: Don’t Know vs. Don’t Care

    The Republican Party’s public stance on the budget wars is that President Obama is to blame for refusing to support cuts to retirement programs. Now, it’s sort of a tricky stance to maintain because Obama has publicly declared his willingness to cut spending on retirement programs and even outlined his position. The interesting split within the Republican Party is between those Republicans who understand this fact but choose not to acknowledge it, those who don’t understand it, and those who don’t really care.

    Murphy probably represents the vast bulk of the Republican Party right now. They don’t follow the ins and outs of the policy debate. They don’t like taxes or spending. Many of them — enough to pass a bargain through the House, with Democratic support — could be persuaded to support a compromise in theory. But their sense of what a fair bargain might look like is determined almost entirely by partisan signals. If Obama is willing to do something, they figure, that thing can’t be good enough.

  9. jawbone says:

    I just did a few google searches to see how often Bill Black had appeared on or been talked about on our several news channels. The only channel which had him as a guest, based on a somewhat cursory search (I didn’t go beyond a couple pages), was a FOX Business show which had him on about the LIBOR scandal.

    Otherwise, he does not exist as an expert, an economist, a political/societal commentator.

    I wonder how Mornin’ Joe even learned about him…. Was Black mentioned by Krugman? Or did some intern do a search on ecnomists who aren’t Austerians?

    Bill Black exists on the web, but so many people have so little time to dig around for real information. Our MCM (Mainstream CORPORATE Media) is totally unfair to our needs as citizens. They do not want us educated except in their propaganda. It’s amazing so many people saw through BushBoy and Romney….

    (Ex: My nephew’s wife, atty, gets home in time to eat with the kids (7 and 5), get them to bed, and then goes to bed herself to get up extra early to get some house things done and see the kids before she leaves for work. Not all that unusual, except that she has to have a goodly amount of sleep due to having had some kind of brain seizure. Couldn’t drive for almost a year, but, now with rest and medication, she’s considered safe to drive. To remain that way she has to get a decent night’s sleep. Most people just try to cheat on sleep, catch up on weekends., She doesn’t have that freedom.

    Weekends are jam packed with kid time and errands, appts, etc.

    How many people are under stimilar contraints?)